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Faceoff specialist Bracy gets Carthage going

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BLACK RIVER — The success of the Carthage boys lacrosse team literally begins with Paul Bracy.

Bracy, a senior midfielder, has developed into a faceoff specialist — perhaps the best in the area, if not one of the best in the region.

His role, often overshadowed by the gaudy statistics generated by high-scoring attackmen and midfielders, is a vital one, as when successful it establishes possession of the ball.

“Paul does two things really well,” Carthage coach Kirk Ventiquattro said of Bracy. “He shoots on the run as well as any kid we’ve ever had, and he is an excellent faceoff guy.”

This in turns helps feed the offensive success of a team while in the process keeps the ball away from the opposition.

Bracy has excelled at faceoffs his past two seasons for the Comets and this year by winning draws he’ll help spark the flow of the offense, which will be led by senior Bailey Wilkinson.

“It all starts with Paul and Bailey (Wilkinson), there’s no doubt about it,” Ventiquattro said. “Bailey is going to play every inch of the field, everything is going to go through him offensively and it’s going to be up to Paul to make sure we have the ball.”

Bracy’s contributions will again be crucial to the Comets’ bid to repeat as Frontier League’s “A” Division champion.

“I try to focus on bringing it all together,” Bracy said during team practice at Black River Elementary School. “And I like to adapt. If I’m not doing well on a faceoff, I just try and figure out what the other guy is doing — there’s always ways to get around it and beat them.”

Carthage has reached the past three Section 3 title games, losing to perennial state power Jamesville-DeWitt each time, including last year in Class B. Bracy knows how a seemingly small event, like a faceoff, can grow larger in high-stakes games.

“If it’s a big possession, it can be a pivotal point in a game,” Bracy said. “It’s like ‘we really need this possession and we’ve got to get this faceoff.’ Sometimes it’s do or die and you have that pressure on your shoulders. It really comes down to how much you want it.”

Bracy clearly takes a lot of pride in winning faceoffs, which is a challenge in itself, both mentally as well as physically.

“He takes every (faceoff) loss personally, which is what you have to do to be a good faceoff guy,” Ventiquattro said.

“In my experience, there’s no better feeling than getting that ball out clean and on a fast break and sticking a goal in right away, especially starting out a game that way,” Bracy said. “It’s the best feeling in the world, it gets you going and your team going.”

Last season, Bracy won faceoffs at a 72.3-percent clip, winning 162 of 224 draws, as well as scoring 30 goals and assisting on 22 others.

Bracy has contested faceoffs at various levels since he was in the eighth grade, when he was encouraged to do so by older brother Andrew, who was a faceoff specialist both at Carthage and now as a junior at Norwich University in Vermont.

“He’s been fortunate enough to have a couple really good guys work with him over the years — former South Jefferson and Syracuse faceoff guy John Jerome and his brother Andrew,” Ventiquattro said.

Bracy, who plans on attending Clarkson University on an ROTC scholarship, is looking into majoring in mechanical engineering.

He sees parallels in being successful on the lacrosse field as well.

“In physics, you put energy in and get the same amount of energy out,” Bracy said. “I think it’s the same with faceoffs, if you put the work and energy in, you’ll get results — but you’ve got to give it your all.”

Yet Bracy doesn’t underestimate the cognisant aspect of winning faceoffs.

“Definitely, a lot of it is mental,” Bracy said. “A lot of the time people overthink it and that can’t happen. You just have to go into it thinking ‘I’m going to win this’ and just work harder than the other guy.”

But often times winning a draw and advancing the ball up field depends on physical skill and prowess. Bracy ran with the Carthage cross country team last fall to work on his conditioning.

“A lot of it is quickness,” Bracy said. “There are a lot of drills we do for hand speed and quickness. And in the weight room, too. It’s really physical and even some of the smaller guys who get in the weight room benefit from it and are able to muscle people out of the way. It’s really important to maintain speed and strength — it’s really an all-around thing.”

Bracy is quick to give credit to the players around him during a critical draw.

“Another big thing with faceoffs is the wing play, having the right guy on the wing and this year it’s mostly going to be Chris DeRonda,” Bracy said. “He’s really good about communicating to me about where I need to get the ball out to and where the defenders are.”

He also credits teammates Adam Kehoe and Brennan Davis for their skills of gathering in ground balls.

Here is a look at the Frontier League this season:

“A” Division

Outlook: Carthage is clearly the favorite to repeat as “A” Division champion in the Frontier League. The Comets lost some firepower to graduation last year with the departure of Seth Leonard (52 goals-41 assists-93 points) and Casey Boulio (60-5-65), who led the league in points and goals last year, respectively. They will be led offensively this spring by Wilkinson (44-41-85), who finished in a tie for second place in points in the league, and is headed to Division II lacrosse power Le Moyne, as well as Bracy. Alex Gillette (16-11-27) and Bryan Peloquin (14-8-22) also returning to play attack. Juniors Josh Yelvington (29-2-31) and Chris DeRonda (5-6-11) will be counted on to lead the offensive midfield group for the Comets. Defensively, with an injury to Jake Turck, Gunner Serota will lead a primarily young group after the graduation of leader Taylor Morgan. The team is backstopped by senior goalie Trevor Gibbons. Expectations are high for a Watertown team that reached the Class B sectional semifinal round last season and won the league’s “A” division title two years ago. The Cyclones have five of their top offensive players returning, led by senior attackman Eric Soderquist, who finished fifth in the league in scoring with 71 points, which included 40 goals, and senior midfielder and Syracuse University-bound Brad McKinney (43-15-58). As a sophomore last year, midfielder Noah Taylor, who has committed to play Division I lacrosse at the University at Albany, wasn’t far behind with 53 points, including 31 goals. The squad also features a “young, smart and hard-working defense,” which is backed by junior goalie Austin Gibson. Immaculate Heart Central hopes to build on an eight-win season, which included a third-place finish in the division. Fifteen players return for the Cavaliers, who will be led offensively by returners Nick Koemel (28-15-43) and Cole Carpenter (14-6-20). IHC’s defense is anchored by senior Jude Whalen, who will attend Division I Drexel University to play lacrosse in 2015. Indian River will look to improve with eight returners on a team.

Carthage Comets

Coach: Kirk Ventiquattro (26th year)

2013 Record: (16-2, 12-0 league)

Players to watch: Paul Bracy, Chris DeRonda, Trevor Gibbons, Bryan Peloquin, Matt Raap, Gunner Serota, Bailey Wilkinson, Josh Yelvington.

Roster: Paul Bracy (Sr., M), Trevor Gibbons (Sr., G), Alex Gillette (Sr., A), Bryan Peloquin (Sr., A), Josh Sanders (Sr., A), Gunner Serota (Sr., D), Jake Turck (Sr., D), Bailey Wilkinson (Sr., A/M), Travis Workman (Sr., D), Josh Capers (Jr., D), Tim Cole (Jr., D), Chris DeRonda (Jr., M/D), Tristan Hancock (Jr., G), Dakota Hardison (Jr., A), Matt Raap (Jr., D), Jake Redmore (Jr., M), Eric Rounds (Jr., M), Josh Ryan (Jr., M), Josh Yelvington (Jr., M), Dylan Highers (So., M), Devin Lajoie (So., M), Ethan LaRock (So., G), Alex Mack (So., A), Stefan Nortz (So., A), Jordan Phelps (So., D), Brennan Davis (Fr., LSM), Logan Dunn (Fr., M), Caleb Null (Fr., D).

Immaculate Heart Central Cavaliers

Coach: Denny Patrick (4th year)2013 Record: (8-9, 7-5)

Players to watch: Cole Carpenter, Pat Gefel, Dan Grant, Matt Guyette, Nick Koelmel, Mike Marra, Jude Whalen.

Roster: Haden Baker, Fred Helion-Barden, Robert Blackstock, Cole Carpenter, Grant Chamberlain, Will Cummings, Pat Gefel, Dan Grant, Matt Guyette, Connor Ingerson, Nick Koelmel, Nick Kramer, Mike Marra, James McClusky, Jared Pignone, Jason Reape, Luke Renzi, Jarrod Smith, Jordan Trudeau, Jack Whalen, Jude Whalen, Pete Winkler, Cody Zimmer.

Indian River Warriors

Coach: Greg Niewieroski (4th year)

2013 Record: (4-11, 2-10)

Players to watch: Connor Brown, Daquan Brown, Logan Prudhomme, Kyle Smith.

Roster: Connor Bell (Sr., A), Darrius Holland (Sr., M), Kaleb Loar (Sr., D), Ryan Maloney (Sr., D), Dalen Boyd (Jr., D), Connor Brown (Jr., A), Daquan Brown (Jr., D), Jared Chant (Jr., M), Nick Comini (Jr., M), Justin Corely (Jr., D), Nathan Ives (Jr., D), Ryan Loar (Jr., G), Logan Prudhomme (Jr., A), Kyle Smith (Jr., M), Justin Wise (Jr., M), Jeremy Snyder (So., M), Tim Duncan (Fr., M).

Watertown Cyclones

Coach: Brian Navarra (4th year)

2013 Record: (11-7, 8-4)

Players to watch: Anthony Donato, Tyler Hooker, Marcus Lavarnway, Brad McKinney, Eric Soderquist, Noah Taylor.

Roster: Ryan Erickson (Sr., M), Dustin Gilchrist (Sr., D), Mike Gleason (Sr., M), Ralph Jordan (Sr., M), Matt McCormick (Sr., A), Brad McKinney (Sr., M), Mike Netto (Sr., M), Eric Soderquist (Sr., A), Eric Burnett (Jr., D), Anthony Donato (Jr., A), Jake Favret (Jr., D), Austin Gibson (Jr., G), Zach Gleason (Jr., A), Tyler Hooker (Jr., D), Marcus Lavarnway (Jr., A), Jon Rabon (Jr., D), Adam Streijewske (Jr., M), Noah Taylor (Jr., M), Mitch Netto (So., M), Neal Ruperalia (So., D).

“B” Division

Outlook: With a new head coach with Rich Purvis at the helm, General Brown once again appears to be the class of the division, as well as one of the top teams in the league overall. The Lions return 10 players from a team that won the program’s fifth consecutive Frontier League “B” Division championship, as well as setting school records in wins (11), league wins (9) and winning percentage (.647). Returners include team captains Cole Johnson, Rob Pickeral and Jake Purvis. Johnson, who in 2013 finished tied for second in league scoring (85 points) and finished second in goals (55), and Purvis combined to post 132 points, including 88 goals. South Jefferson sports 10 returning players, including six starters. In his fifth year as head coach, Randy Fuller will guide a team that includes 19 players on its roster. Lowville returns nine players in the second year under head coach Patrick Weiler and looks to improve on last year’s winless league season.

General Brown Lions

Coach: Rich Purvis (1st year)

2013 Record: (11-7, 9-3)

Players to watch: Cole Johnson, Rob Pickeral, Jake Purvis.

Roster: Connor Bero (Sr., D), Colton Erb (Sr., M), Garrett Fields (Sr., M), Trevor Hughes (Sr., A), Brad Jorgensen (Sr., M), Ryan Lamon (Sr., A), Rob Pickeral (Sr., D), Jake Purvis (Sr., M), Matt Roberts (Sr., G), Bryce Fazio (Jr., D), Cole Johnson (Jr., A), Dylan Bice (So., M), Scotty Bluto (So., M), Kevin Durdon (So., D), Cam Foster (So., G), Ben Hanson (So., A), Kyle O’Connor (So., M), Sam Mathison (So., D), Connor Schissler (So., M), Bobby Mulligan (Fr., M), Luke Rogers (Fr., A), Nick Vecchio (Fr., M).

Lowville Red Raiders

Coach: Patrick Weiler (2nd year)

2013 Record: (2-14, 0-12)

Players to watch: Dylan Babcock, Scott Bingle, Robbie Campany.

Roster: Dylan Babcock (Sr., A/M), Kyle Malik (Sr., M), A.J. Thomas (Sr., M), Cody Babcock (Jr., D), Tyler Birchenough (Jr., G), Ben Bush (Jr., A), Robbie Campany (Jr., A/M), Matthew Collier (Jr., A), Bradley Curry (Jr., A), Mike Sundquist (Jr., M), Scott Bingle (So., D), Alex Houppert (So., D), Dalton Jones (So., M), Stephen Kaufmann (So., D), Noah Roes (So., M), Bram Widrick (So., M), Dan Bates (Fr., D), Evan Blair (Fr., D), Devin Roes (Fr., M), Ryan Sprowl (Fr., M), Isaac Tanis (Fr., D), Josh Valentine (Fr., D), Andre Young (Fr., G/M).

South Jefferson Spartans

Coach: Randy Fuller (5th year)

2013 Record: (4-12, 4-8)

Players to watch: Mike Clark, Benner Geurtsen, Philip Isberner, Matt Kerber, Hunter Merrill, Austin Robare.

Roster: Philip Isberner (Sr., M), Kyle Jones (Sr., M), Matt Kerber (Sr., A), Hunter Merrill (Sr., G), Avery Shelmidine (Sr., D), Andrew Short (Sr., M), Daniel Smith (Sr., D), Kyle Wratten (Sr., G), Griffin Charlebois (Jr., A), Mike Clark (Jr., D), Brandon Dibble (Jr., M), Benner Geurtsen (Jr., M), Eric Mullin (Jr., D), Tristan Richard (Jr., M), Jesse Rose (Jr., D), Ethan Smith (Jr., M), Caleb Alford (So., A), Austin Robare (So., M), Alec Sharlow (So., M).

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